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Alumni taste wine on case-by-case basis

There was a lot of laughter. There were some terrible jokes. ("I like to drink wine on a case-by-case basis...") And then there were the ingenious team names including 'In It To Wine It' and 'The Imposters'. Yes, the Department of Chemistry's annual Call My Bluff Wine Tasting was back again.

This event is regularly held on the Friday evening of the University's Alumni Festival. Participants have fun in the company of fellow alumni and taste some unusual wines, all while learning about some of the latest research going on here in the department. And they enjoy it. As one participant told us: "The best part of it was talking to fellow alumni." Another guest told us: "This event was great; it's why I love to return to Cambridge."

Alumni sipped a number of different wines while our bluffers described the chemical attributes, provenance and even terroir of each one. But there was a catch — only one of them was telling the truth. It was up to our visitors to decide whose explanation was right, and which wine was which. Were they drinking a Medoc or a Malbec? A Portugese Moscatal or an American Black Muscat? 

This year our bluffers included alumnus James Harrison, who completed his MPhil in Chemistry in Dave King’s surface science research group in 1996 and is now Executive Chairman of Cycle Pharmaceuticals. He fooled a lot of people a lot of the time, perhaps because of his confident delivery. "Like me, this wine has a certain joie de vivre!"

But both he and our Deputy Head of Department Nick Bampos were regular bluffers. The panellist telling the truth more often than not was our colleague Jenny Zhang who has recently become a Research Fellow. Jenny designs new catalytic systems to convert sunlight into solar fuels and brought a pair of special 'light-correcting' glasses with her. They certainly seemed to help her divine what the wine really was. (Though having the script in front of her might have helped too!)

As the event came to an end, our alumni drained their glasses and filled in our feedback forms. What was the least satisfactory part of the evening? "My own knowledge of wine!" responded one sadly. And what was the best part?  "The cameraderie," came one response, and "seeing others I had been at Cambridge with," said another. 

We're glad our alumni had such a good time. And we're already looking forward to next year. 

Visit the 2018 photo gallery.

See photos of previous Call My Bluff events.